Greg Landman meets the country’s top winemakers. This month is the turn of Boela Gerber of Groot Constantia…
Boela was born in Cape Town in 1972. He’s easy going and affable, with a sense of humour that has no doubt seen him through one or two tight spots. He originally enrolled at Stellenbosch to do a BSc and stumbled upon winemaking when he was “quickly persuaded“ by one of his classmates – son of Wilhelm Linde, legendary winemaker at Nuy Winery – to switch to oenology, which was a “steep learning curve”, but one he took to effortlessly.
His biggest influence was André van Rensburg (Vergelegen), with whom he worked at Stellenzicht. He has had extensive overseas experience at Château Angélus at Saint-Émilion and ”a few vintages in Bordeaux in the off-season, as well as in Tuscany, La Rioja and California,” he says modestly. Boela is married to Michaela, a physiotherapist. They feel fortunate to live on the estate and love entertaining at home. He enjoys the outdoors, mountain biking in Tokai, surf skiing in Hout Bay, and the occasional holiday at his parents’ cottage in Yzerfontein.
There are many versions of the origin of the name Constantia, but the most credible is that the seriously acquisitive Simon van der Stel, the original owner of the whole Constantia Valley, named it after the daughter of the VOC official who expedited the transfer of the land.
Today, Groot Constantia, after a sometimes turbulent history, has settled into a gracious and venerable old age. This is the 300-year old Granddaddy of Cape wine farms and a visit takes one back to a time when things were slower and we’d never heard of Twitter. Its wines were sought-after by emperors, aristocrats, writers like Jane Austen and even Napoleon on St Helena. After a period when the wines were not well considered, today the team is producing award-winners readily accessible to the thousands of visitors who flock to the estate annually.
Sauvignon Blanc 2014
A touch of Semillon tempers this delicious wine that is packed with summer fruit flavours like white peaches adding to the richness on the palate. R114
Thirteen months in oak supports four red varietals led by Cabernet Sauvignon. This results in flavours of red cherries and plums, even a grape or two, eminently quaffable. A bargain at R91
Grande Constance 2012
The quintessential SA wine made from red and white Muscat grapes. Intense and fragrant with crisp acidity balancing the sweetness perfectly. A fabulous gift for someone special. R423 (375ml bottle)
Winemaker Boela Gerber, member of the prestigious Cape Winemakers Guild, keeps a tight rein, making wines worthy of their ancient heritage with plenty of fruit always apparent, supported by oak whenever necessary. “I want to express a sense of place in all our wines, a taste of Groot Constantia’s character,” he says. These wines have won more than 66 gold medals in the last decade, both here and internationally, which means he must be doing something right.